Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2012: B16 Into Irish Storm?

Prior to the UK PopeTrip, it was noted here that while the clergy sex-abuse angle was getting heavy play in the British press, B16's most intense confrontation with the global scandals would instead likely come in summer 2012, when the pontiff has been credibly tipped to visit Ireland as Dublin hosts the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.

While some Irish readers balked at the prospect in the wake of the torrential drubbing taken by church leadership there in the wake of the Ryan and Murphy Reports, further talk of the timetable has now come from a senior official in the North:
The Pope could visit Ireland in 2012, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said.

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister was asked at a Stormont committee meeting about why he and First Minister Peter Robinson did not meet the Pope last week in Scotland.

Mr McGuinness said it was a British state visit and he would be pleased to meet the Pope when he visited Ireland.

"I also have some grounds for believing that could happen as soon as 2012," he added.
While the Holy See has made several unprecedented interventions into the Irish situation over recent months -- February's Vatican summit with the country's hierarchy, the following month's papal letter to Ireland's Catholics, and May's announcement of an Apostolic Visitation of the national church -- Rome received a tidal wave of anger across broad swaths of Irish society (and beyond) over the summer as word emerged that the proferred resignations of Dublin auxiliary Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field were declined following demands for the prelates' ouster, despite their absence from the brunt of the state inquiry's chastisement over the severe mishandling of allegations by decades of archdiocesan officials.

To date, three Irish bishops have had their walking papers taken over their role in cover-ups, including John Magee -- the former private secretary to Popes Paul VI and John Paul II -- who resigned from his Cork diocese in April, a year after Rome effectively took its reins from him by naming an Apostolic Administrator. A separate state inquest into Magee's Cloyne church continues, and its result is expected to be yet another rough patch for an already beleaguered Irish Catholicism. Meanwhile, the continuance in office of the cardinal-primate, Sean Brady of Armagh, remains a point of contention for many, one which returned to the fore in the run-up to the papal visit.

On the bright side, the scandals' toll has seen a traditional weakness of Isle-style church (and, by extension, its considerable Stateside diaspora) begun to be remedied -- a summertime program heralded the "time for the laity," encouraging the pewfolk to "rediscover the meaning of our baptism."

That said, if one thought the pre-UK visit battles over funding and logistics were considerable, even if the visitor again pulls off a game-changing performance on the ground, the advance toward an Irish PopeTrip could serve to exacerbate the historically low standing of an ecclesial apparatus once viewed as global Catholicism's most formidable and imposing; "if the state had to pick up the tab," one native noted, "that would be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of relationship between the people, their hierarchy and the government."

As if the times weren't already interesting enough.